Steinmann’s article makes some really interesting points, raising questions that are both timely and nostalgic. I liked thinking about the different connections and networks evoked by it.
As I read excerpts of Rosler’s “The Art of Cooking”, I couldn’t help thinking of both the famous 18th Century Spectator essays of Addison on Taste and the 21st Century film “Julie & Julia” that chronicled Julie Powell’s memoir on cooking the recipes in Julia Child’s famous cookbook. That the reader must measure up to the author (Addison’s assertion), instead of the other way around, seems an almost archaic concept in our world, one so quickly moderated by hashtagged snark and the guerrilla jabs of keyboard warriors whose criticisms often exceed their wit. And, yet, the aforementioned film features a particularly contemporary heroine who seeks to gain validation through a linking of herself to an established, traditional notion of taste by duplicating, rather than re-imagining, a kind of taste that has been historically valued. Both of these ideas come to mind as I read a dialogue between a fictional Child and Claiborne, hashing out ideas of taste and taste. The dual concept of “taste” and its relationship to privilege is inescapable, in the text itself and in the modern world. Does the notion of “progress” and change fit into the discussion?
There’s something interesting about the ways in which ideas about cuisine have the power to uplift, but also to ground, and it isn’t surprising that ideas about high and low art are pushed up against ideas about vulgarity and elitism in Rosler’s text, making even more resonant the Beauty and the Beast image among the Rihanna pizza and omelette memes mentioned by Steinmann. In some ways, the Rosler text brings up the idea of where the woman “rightly” belongs in relation to labor, and to art, as well. Does the woman “belong” in the kitchen? If she is in the kitchen, can we still call the thing she is doing art, or has it become a kind of kitsch? Can she choose to occupy the domestic sphere without relinquishing power? How does that now relate to our attitudes about watching contemporary shows on cookery and cuisine? Can we call the thing art if we talk about weird foods among men, while we consider the thing a domestic shortcut when we talk about entertaining our families at the dinner table among women? Do we value the artistic merit of Gordon Ramsey and Rachel Ray equally, and how much does gender factor into the value we ascribe? Does Belle only get to have the power of being with a Prince instead of a Beast once she has mastered the domestic sphere of talking utensils and home goods? Does her love of libraries enter into the conversation with the same valence? I don’t think it really matters if we answer the questions. I don’t think that artistry is at the heart of the discussion around Julia Child’s appeal, nor is it at the heart of the discussion about Rihanna’s wardrobe, or even that of the author whose work is being consumed by Addison’s imagined reader in order to gain or become worthy of some value. I do think all of these have something to do with how we think about taste. Steinman’s observations invite us to investigate the connection between taste, value, power, and privilege – as well as the expense of such ideas. I agree with the distinctions that she has made, here, as she says, “Rosler’s own work does the opposite, of course, as a political engagement that addresses not the magical power of the artist as creator but the conditions of power that affect all of us”. The politics of the domestic space and those of the artistic space are both called into question, especially as we think about the feminization of labor. The power to determine what “Taste” is and isn’t, what has value and what doesn’t, hasn’t really been feminized alongside the labor.
I’m interested to see how our ideas about cuisine, capital, gender, labor and art today intersect with those of Rosler’s arguments, something which the e-flux publication of the text in the context of world futures asks us to consider. And, I have to admit that I’m really enjoying the direction that the conversation seems to be taking in the comments!